Opinion: When minimalism goes too far
Melanie Suzanne Wilson’s response to the minimalism trend.
Here is my take on minimalism: there is too much of it. Extreme minimalists tend to wear just monochrome shades, with barely a couple of jeans and tee shirts. Furniture is replaced by crates. The simple life can be enjoyed in many ways. Reducing one’s belongings to bare necessities might not be the only way to live responsibly. I understand and respect the lifestyles of minimalists. It is just not for me.
I like stuff
Things are fun. My wardrobes hold clothes that do more than cover me up. Fashionable creative pieces were collected for personal style. Sentimental home decorating represents tastes and life experiences. I do not want to cull all my possessions in the name of simplicity.
The walls in our apartment feature decorations that express our personalities. A large poster of Judith Durham is signed and framed, reminding me of her wonderful performances. The rustic-style sign from Cronulla says, “There’s always time for a glass of wine.” Those words do more than show my passion for a good glass. They remind us to stop and have a break, even just for a few minutes. The sign box from our wedding now sits above a book shelf. I changed the letters to now read, “LOVE PEACE.” That basic plastic box shows our values and reminds us of that special day. I could not imagine living without the most sentimental decorations.
I could not swap my treasured possessions for minimalist interiors. We currently do not need a blank canvas with fairy lights on it. I would rather skip the wire and metal objects that are now filling the stores. Maybe if I was setting up an office, I would keep it simple with neutral interiors and then add some personalised pieces. But the home is where the heart is.
Now here’s the thing about wardrobes. If someone has too few clothes, those items will be washed more often so they stay clean. Let’s definitely find brands that pay their workers fair wages where possible. There is logic in skipping the fleeting trends that we won’t be wearing later. But a broad collection of classics feels better to me than just two or three of each thing.
I am reaching three to five of each type of clothing that I adore. If something feels great for most occasions, I will order two of the exact same thing. I now have five wrap-style dresses in my wardrobe. Then my wardrobe also holds three shirt-dresses that feel great. Then a few oversized shirt-dresses are also in there. Let’s not even start listing the little black dresses and other glamorous choices. And I won’t even address the pairs of jeans I went through before stocking up on a few in the ‘right fit.’ This might not sound like a lot. But extreme minimalists would maybe have just one or two skirts, jeans, tops, jackets and LBDs. That to me just doesn’t allow enough variety. The maintenance on minimal clothing would feel like a burden.
The one exception is travel. I would love to pack all essentials in an overnight bag. It beats the fuss of large suitcases. Although I am still getting the hang of what to bring. We recently travelled just overnight on the coast. Weather had typically required light long sleeves. I layered a slip dress over jeans and a long-sleeve tee on day one. Outfit two was packed. It was a long-sleeved wrap dress and skinny jeans to go underneath. I had a jacket in case I got colder.
Then day two soared above what some countries experience at summer time. I wore the slip dress that was layered on the day before, occasionally wearing the wrap dress unwrapped and open as a cardigan in air-conditioned rooms. It worked, but I should have gone for a sleeveless wrap dress instead of a sleeved one. I might talking about sleeves quite a bit, although Australia can get really scorching temperatures. That strangely sweaty day meant boots were out of the question. We found some comfy sandals after some searching.
I learned my lesson. Bring one or two of what you would need in any weather. Don’t assume how the weather will feel. Go for compact packable versions of everything. Find fabrics that won’t crease. In hindsight, I would have brought a pair of pretty flip flops to go from a bar to beach. The re-use of that slip dress was the closest I would get to minimalism. I am still trying to find that balance between too much luggage and not enough essentials.
Whether it’s decorating or dressing, we need to stock up on what we need. Don’t deprive yourself in the name of social responsibility or values.
Give me colour
Colours are emotional psychological forms of communication. I will not swap my vibrant colours for neutral shades. Minimalism has developed a culture of buying everything in whites, blacks and greys. Some of these followers now realise the inconvenience of trying to wash stains out of white surfaces and clothes. An overuse of white can seem overly clinical, as though one is in a hospital. Sure, timeless chic pieces can look amazing especially in black. But let’s mix life up a bit.
Neutrals can be mixed with a single colour for a powerful style. I love wearing red at a formal event. It’s romantic, feminine and very bold. The right red can be paired with a neutral jacket or bolero. Or it can be contrasted with a simple chunky necklace in a contrasting colour, like blue. Carefully chosen bold clothing will stand out in a whole new way.
Of course, the little black dress is still a classic. But it can be paired with all sorts of things. Keep it monochrome one day. Then chuck on a crazy pink jacket to surprise people. Neutrals aren’t wrong, they’re just not the only option.
I believe in moderation instead of minimalism. Everything can feel great in small doses. I realised there was a problem when my clothes filled three wardrobes. But I wouldn’t swap my three wardrobes for three items instead. There is a comfortable middle between the two extremes.
Moderate amounts of anything can be healthy. I would never ‘quit sugar’ just like I wouldn’t quit colour. That being said, let’s avoid binging on anything from books to Netflix. Adults should know how to be responsible without adhering to strict rules about how much to consume.